Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Reflections on Bosnia and Iraq

In response to a comment on a recent post, I mentioned that our efforts in Bosnia might provide valuable lessons for how to proceed in Iraq and possibly, even a model or vision of "success".

Richard Holbrooke, a former UN Ambassador, compares Iraq and Bosnia in the Washington Post today.

The article does not really analyze the prospects for "success" in Iraq, but it does provide a useful framework and/or list of concerns that must be monitored and addressed if Iraq is to have any shot at building a relatively stable society (with or without major American military support).

After reviewing this article I am left with two big thoughts.

First, Holbrooke's listing of the issues to be addressed makes it clear how extraordinarily difficult this quest for a stable, democratic Iraq was from the start - and how much harder it is today after 5 years of minimal progress.

Second, despite my first thought, it may yet be possible. The peace in Bosnia today has largely gone unnoticed and/or been taken for granted. Yet it came after a civil war that left over 100,000 people dead and persisted through 30 failed cease-fires. And, like Iraq, much if not most of the fighting was due to ethnic and religious differences. Of course, there are doubtlessly many factors that make the two countries very different problems, but the point is that the challenges in Bosnia long seemed to be no less solvable - yet apparently they were.

Given the stakes, historical examples like Bosnia and the fact that we WILL be in Iraq until next January, why not continue to explore what success looks like in Iraq and what could be done to achieve it under a new American President....?

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